tv American Artifacts CSPAN July 19, 2014 10:02am-10:31am EDT
it first started in may, 1861. soon after virginia seceded from the union. the troops moved over one night across the potomac, over into arlington and alexandria and started building fortifications after the first battle of manassas in july, 1861 in which the union was defeated. the men came streaming back into the city, and the city could the confederates literally could have walked in and taken the city. so after that was the fear more and more fortifications were built. and general barnard, he was in charge of them for the war. he started developing a system of fortifications around the capital and how they would actually defend the city from the enemy invaders. after second manassas, fear
again. and some more impetus to make sure the fortifications defending washington were doing their job. over the four years, many of the forts were made larger. guns were change to get the best -- guns were changed to get the best function out of each fort an out of the system itself. the defenses were tested in july 1864. before i say that, there were raids on the forts where they would come in and steal horses or supplies. but the only real attack -- a reconnaissance -- took place on july 11, 12 of 1864 when jubal early fought at in august the --
at monocacy then march towards washington and eventually came up and faced these forts up there, the main one fort stevens where abraham lincoln actually came out to watch what was going on. he was not successful. he realized he really could not do what he wanted to do and eventually turned around and went back down into the valley. and after that, basically, nothing really tested the fortifications after that. besides the forts themselves, you had the batteries that were on both sides or in the rear. you had trenches that connected the forts all away around the city. you can see up here where in between you had the covered ways going all the way from one fort to the next battery, so that
troops could move back and forth without being seen. besides the forts, they built block houses, railroads. and they had other things that they actually built for protection within the whole system of the defenses of washington. so it was actually a system of fortifications. if you attacked here, you would catch fire from the forts on both sides. they were mutually supporting. it would have been hard to take one fort because of all the fire you would receive coming from the various forts. it is not important necessarily about how many forts there were.
it is the system and the mutual defense that was there that would really stop an enemy from getting into the city. if you look at some of the pictures they have here, you will see an interior of fort stevens. and then below it is a photo of fort slemmer, which is my favorite photograph because it shows you what a fort looks like on the outside. the vegetation has been removed. this is the sallyport. you can see over the parapet into the fort where the guns are mounted. that is one of my favorite photographs. this is very helpful for a start. fort ward is a good place to start our tour of the civil war defenses of washington.
before we go out and look at for tward, him want to point out i want to point out that this is an 1864 plan. the part that has been restored is the northwest bastion. you will see that the rest of the fort is not as distinct when you walk through it. but the northwest bastion is. this is a model of the fort. notice around it is the apogee. on the outside of the ditch. the fort itself. this is the northwest bastion here. this is the gate or sallyport to fort ward. it was on the rear wall of the fort. it has been redone a number of times. the army at fort belvoir, helped redo this gate. but this is your entrance to
fort ward. i want to point out, if we look around, there were buildings here. they are based on plans and photographs of buildings that were actually in the defenses of washington. but there were other gates like this at other forts. they may not have been that nice but some of them were with the name above. the 1865 would not have been on the original gate. above it is the engineer castle, the logo of army engineers. as i told you, the engineers at fort belvoir helped rebuild this gate. they put the engineer castle on top. they oversaw the construction of the original defenses of washington. this is one of the best preserved of the various forts
in the defenses of washington. these parts of it are fairly well taking care of. but once we get to the northwest bastion, you will see what the fort would have looked like at the time of the civil war. these are all part of the fort we were in. it is a large area. there is also signage that we will see as we walk-through explaining what each resource we run into was. such as a sign here which is pointing out that there was a bomb -- which collapsed in. bombproof was for men to go in when the fort was being shelled and it would protect them.
depending, it would be made out of earth. they had a basement. dirt over top with grass growing. if you got inside the bombproof , you were safe. that is what is underneath here. we are coming to the northwest bastion. first of all, notice the wood that is there to strengthen the fort. besides the earth, you have the wood to keep it in place. you can see the guns, and they are a variety of guns that you will see. and this is what happened that a -- at a lot of forts. what guns you could get a hold
of. you have everything from field artillery to bigger guns. the fort itself was supposed to cover the little river turnpike, the alexandria railroad and the leesburg and alexandria pike. but we are on a high point. so the guns can fire for a long-distance and cover those areas. the original fort that was built for 24 guns, when it was redone in 1864, it held 36 guns. from 540 yards to 818 yards with a bigger fort and 12 additional guns. you had basically during the war green guns and black guns with bronze and iron. usually the bronze was smooth bore. and the black guns were rifled
guns. and the rifled guns had a better range and fired better. but a gun like this was a good anti-personnel weapon. there were types of ammunition you could use. plus at times you could put chains and fire it at an enemy. the chains could mow down a number of men. this type of gun became a good anti-personnel weapon. with this platform you can take a look at the fort without walking on the walls. as we get up here, you can see the ditch and the embrasures as they come out of the fort. also, on the inside of the ditch, that is called a scarf. on the outside that is called the counter scarf. at the top they have those
bushes running. that is to keep people from walking in the moat. and trying to walk up the parapet. but the bushes are like abatee, which are pointed stakes they would have outside a lot of forts. it has to purposes -- to keep purposes, to keep the people out and give them an idea atee look like. and these platforms they built, you can walk into the moat and you are not actually walking on it and helping to destroy it. if you attack, these trees would have been cut down. that would've been open ground. they could start hitting you
with artillery and rifle fire way back. you would hit the abatee, into the ditch and try to climb up the high parapet. you would've had infantry on the other side as well as artillery firing at you. so it was not an easy task. in trying to take one of the forts. plus, your catching fire from are catching fire from the other forts on both sides of this one. a lot of these forts when i came, there were a lot of you were here. in years past, a lot of them became housing developments. interest over the years has increased. it was a problem in this area because these were union forts. and most of these people in virginia had southern sympathies. they could not see any good reason for saving a northern fort.
we are now at fort foote on the potomac river in maryland. we have come from fort ward across the potomac river to fort foote. on this map, you will see, it would be anchoring the defenses on the potomac river down here. across the river in alexander was battery rodgers. the two of those then cover the potomac river in case ships came up. this fort was constructed between 1863 and 1865. unlike most of the other forts, it was not abandoned at the end of the war. they continued to maintain this
fort and man it until 1878 because it was on the river. the only other fort on the river -- on towards the chesapeake bay was fort washington which is basically located across from mount vernon, george washington's home. at the beginning of the war it was manned by marines. was not actually part of the civil war defenses of washington. the circle of forts. but if there would have been ships trying to come up, it would've had an effect, also. if you look at the plan, it will give you an idea of the way the fort was located on the river. you have some of the buildings associated with it behind.
it's main focus was the river itself, even though it anchored the other civil war. defenses of washington this is the way he would've looked to someone who would have come here during the civil war. this is a national park. at times, and has been quite overgrown. right now, you can see if you look around, it needs some manicuring, but it is better than i have seen it in the past. you saw at fort ward how well taken care of it is. it is a city park. the city does a very good job of taking care of fort ward. other forts depending on who maintains them and how good a job they do, you can see some
places it is completely overgrown and you do not have a good idea of what you are actually seeing. we're coming down to the potomac river. if you look across the way, you will see alexandria in virginia. at jones point was battery rogers. jones point would have been in this direction on the other side of the bridge. where jones point and battery rogers was. the forts ran off from there. it anchored the defenses on the virginia side. the forts ran off through alexandria and back to the river and across. they had a team they could put
chain they could put across the potomac to keep ships from coming up the river. as far as i know, we have never had it laid out. but they did have a chain they could use across the river. this is a map, there is fort foote on the river, jones point over here. back over towards fort ward. then we are going to go to fort stevens. which is right here. to give you an idea. you see these black marks point out where the different forts were. and then the city more or less imposed on the map itself. we are coming up on one of the 15-inch rodman guns.
you can see how large it is there were guns like this that had actually a 360 degrees shooting area, because you can move it all away around this ring. now, these guns were left here when they left the fort. when i saw them, they were off their carriages sitting on the ground. what had happened was during world war ii, when they were scrapping metal for the war they came out here and started dismantling the guns. they took them off the carriages and cut up one of the carriages. then the ranger showed up and said, wait a minute. what you doing? they said, no. these are protected. this is a national park. we do not want these guns are -- cut up. a congressman from pittsburgh where the guns were made said, if the park service is not going
to remount them, i want them back in pittsburgh. at that point the national park service decided to remount them. they build the new rings and carriages and they have been remounted. it was quite a job. but it gives you an idea of the way these guns would have looked at the time of the civil war and after. the problem with world war i and world war ii that so many guns were melted down. there are a few big guns left from the civil war period. there are some. it is very valuable to have these two in fort foote. all of the guns have markings on them with the serial number.
this says it was made in 1863. this is the initials of thomas rodman. he was also an inspector. he may have inspected it. it depends on the fort itself as to what guns might actually be in them. this one had two 15-inch guns. they had four 200-pounder parrets. there were a lot of places there were some vacant platforms. 11 vacant platforms. as they reconstructed some of these forts, he decided that new guns would go in and help cover this.
fortifications did change. i told you we would stop and i would show you what some of the -- your plans for the system ofions, the fortifications did change over the war. i told you we would stop and i would show you what some of the 360 degree angle guns look like. the carriage is a little bit different. you notice the bottom. that gun could be turned 360 degrees. you can fire if the gun is mounted on the parapet. you're only going to one about you're only going to want about 180 degrees. but it could be fired the other way if needed. but you can see the abatee. the pointed stakes on the outside. it is in the ditch on the
outside of the parapet to keep enemies from coming in. but you can see that it is clear, field of fire in front. this is fort stevens, which is one of the many forts in the defenses of washington. this is probably the most famous and i will explain why. originally this was known as for t massachusetts. the people who built it immediately after the battle of first manassas, which scared the washington, d.c. area, and they started getting serious about building defenses around the city. so fort massachusetts was built in this area by massachusetts troops. it was about a perimeter of 168 yards and encompassed 200 men in
the fort. after second manassas in august, 1862, they decided to make this larger because of its location. it's on high ground. it covers 7th street which today is george avenue. the 7th street extended which a lot of people use. it was important to protect it. they made it larger so it was 375 yards perimeter. as i mentioned, it was the most famous fort. that is because of the battle of fort stevens on july 11, 12, 1864 when jubal early brought troops up through the valley, up around frederick, maryland, and then in towards washington, d.c. on july 11, he came very near the fort itself. his men were exhausted. they could feel it out a little
bit that day but decided they would have a demonstration next day. i've explained before that these defenses were mutually supporting. so that if you attacked fort stevens you were going to catch fire from the forts on both sides. even jubal early in has demonstration on the 12th realized that. and decided to leave. now, the defenses, as i mentioned, had started being built in 1861. this is 1864, this is the culmination of the defenses. following the attacks in july 1864. really, they pretty much went un-maligned. lee was more or less headed south and the other confederate
troops were doing the same in other parts of the country. so in 1864, it was probably the culmination of the defenses themselves, even though construction went on right to the end of the war. on some of them even afterwards. interestingly in the 1930's, the civilian conservation corps was brought in to work on this fort. after the civil war, it was abandoned and it was not until around the turn, 1900, that some of the veterans of the sixth corps raised money to buy the land. as you see when looking around the fort it is by no means all here.
but they tried to restore it as best they could. you will notice the revettment. those logs are made out of concrete. what we are seeing is this area over to about here. and then on the front side you will see the ditches still there. this area is cut off on the side. it was never fully finished in the rear. it was more or less like -- they did have logs in the back to close it into support it. while the battle of fort stevens was going on in july, abraham lincoln came out to the fort and he got up on the parapet to look out to see where the troops
were. and there were actually some sharpshooters who took shots at him. they did not hit him. the story is, and i wondered whether this is true or not, oliver wendell holmes who became famous later was said to have said, "get down, you fool." i doubt that happened, but there are people that said that is what oliver wendell holmes said. abraham lincoln here standing on the parapet looking out to see where the enemy troops actually were. >> you can watch this and other programs attifacts" any time by visiting our website -- www.c-span.org/history.
>> 100 years ago after the beginning of what was called the great war, michael lasser looks back at the music of world war i. he demonstrates how songs reflected the wartime experiences of soldiers and those back home from the sweethearts two the soldiers returning from the front. and he argues that the music industry, including irving berlin, contributed to the war effort by producing patriotic songs. this hour and 15 minute event was hosted by the president woodrow wilson house and washington, d.c. >> good evening to all of you. i am the executive director of the president woodrow wilson house national trust historic site. we are supported by the donations of supporters including many of you. thanks for being here this evening. this home is the home to which president and mrs. wilson moved the day they left the white house in 1921. president wilson passed away three years later. mrs. wilson lived unti